Blue Devils drop must-win contest to Williamson… again
BY JOSH FRYE
Just like last season, the playoff hopes of Escambia County High’s Blue Devils were washed away by Williamson High. The Lions outlasted ECHS 16-7 last Friday, October 25, on soggy turf to snatch Class 4A, Region 1’s final postseason seed.
Last year, the Lions wiped away playoff hopes for ECHS with a 7-2 defeat on a rainy, muddy night in Mobile, much like last Friday’s home game.
As the Blue Devils took to the wet, mud-soaked field on last Friday, hopes were high for retaliation.
The contest started out on a strong note for ECHS. Willie Banks put the Blue Devils on the board first, 6-0, with a 3-yard run into the end zone with 8:51 left in the first quarter. Aaron Calva’s PAT upped the lead by a point.
With just over a minute left in the half, Williamson found the end zone on a run, and a successful two-point conversion slid them into an 8-6 lead, one they would never relinquish.
As the teams emerged from the locker rooms after halftime, Williamson picked up where it had left off, scoring on a 60-yard strike. ECHS’s Ladarius Wilson halted the Lion’s two-point conversion attempt, but the Blue Devils trailed by eight.
With 2:03 left in the third quarter, the visiting team halted scoring hopes for ECHS, intercepting a Jaccob Hammac pass attempt, and ECHS’s offensive problems carried over into the fourth quarter, when the Lions sacked Hammac twice, the second one for a safety that ended the night’s scoring.
With 5:56 left in the game, penalties continued to add to the rain-soaked Blue Devils problems. Wilson was ejected due to a second unsportsmanlike penalty.
With just over a minute left to play in the contest, junior Ja’Coby James gave one last gimmer of hope for ECHS. James broke free on a 45-yard rush but was stopped short of the end zone, and the team’s playoff hopes dried up.
Hammac completed 7 of 14 pass attempts for 152 yards to lead the offense, while
Banks and James led the ECHS running game. Banks carried the ball 25 times for 85 yards and a touchdown, while James had 4 carries for 78 yards.
“Defensively we played a good game,” ECHS head coach Scott Mason said. “We played a very defensive game. Ladarius Wilson, Jamarius Lewis and Tomorrion Knight all had great games on defense.”
The Blue Devils season record now stands at 4-5, with one game to play.
“We are extremely young in places,” Mason said. “We have grown in some areas this season but we have to learn to stop beating ourselves. We have made too many critical mistakes at critical times. Our goal after the completion of this season is to get back on track.”
The first-year ECHS coach said he did see some progress from when he took over the program. But, he pointed out, the team’s seniors were playing for their third coach, creating a lack of enthusiasm among them.
“The older kids are jaded due to the many coaches that have come and gone through these doors,” he said. “Now it is time to groom the younger guys and get them ready for a winning mentality for next season. Despite not reaching the playoffs, we have conquered a lot of our goals as a team.”
The Blue Devils will travel to meet Francis Marion this Friday, November 1 in their last game of the year.
Mason stressed that he is going to let the seniors enjoy their final game but said he will be working to fill in the gaps that will be left by graduation. Though he didn’t say that Hammac wouldn’t be under center when Friday’s game starts, he noted that quarterback is one of the positions he will be looking to fill.
“Anthony McCants is taking Jaccob Hammac’s slot next season,” Mason said. “McCants is a great kid and a good quarterback. He is quick in the pocket and can run. He will be the guy to keep your eye on next year.”